Tears are nothing new under the Clark government.

You can’t help but shudder at the sinister nickname for British Columbia’s Provincial AutoRoute 16, known as “The Highway of Tears,” which is both a trucking passage and the winding graveyard of up to 42 aboriginal women—most of which assumed murdered by a series of active serial killers. In fact, the RCMP, Canada’s famous Mounties and the chief police force investigating the murders—believes there are active serial killers currently operating along the highway. The RCMP puts the official number of women who have been murdered along the highway at 18.

Running west to east through some of the most remote terrain in North America, passing by desolate First Nations reserves and logging towns, the highway has become synonymous with the endemic violence towards Native women in Canada: They’re five times more likely than any other ethnicity in the country to be raped or murdered. It really wasn’t until a white tree planter was murdered and discovered on the highway in 2002, that the RCMP finally launched a full-scale investigation. The taskforce, called EPANA, has had its funding cut several times in the last few years and no one is sure what they are doing now.

Ray Michalko, a former RCMP detective who quit the force, is now one of the only men on the job as a private investigator. He works directly with the families of missing or murdered indigenous women on his own dime. He takes VICE on a tour of, basically, Canada’s Valley of Death and connects us with the families who have turned to him after sometimes decades of stalled police investigations.

When I saw this video posted yesterday by the Tyee online, I sat down with a cup of coffee to watch it. It’s been a while since I heard the name Ray Michalko and it’s very much worth the time it takes to watch this. In the wake of the launch of former VPD detective Lori Shenhers book  on the Pickton case, it was timely. In both the Pickton case and the murdered and missing women of the Highway of Tears, law enforcement has come under fire. Though separate cases, they are inextricably intertwined by sorrow,grief and a heavy feeling that results from a lack of closure on both.

Government has come under fire as well, for saying first this section of highway was safer than ever, and then quashing the idea of a shuttle bus along the highway last year.

But it wasn’t until May of this year when Tim Duncan  blew the whistle on all of this -after stating he was forced to delete emails following an FOI request for the Highway of Tears– that an investigation was launched. The final report of that investigation was revealed today, and with it, the news that an executive assistant to Minster of Transportation Todd Stone lied under oath. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/highway-of-tears-email-deletion-referred-to-rcmp-by-b-c-privacy-watchdog-1.3284029

My reaction was swift this morning, and without exaggeration.  And it makes me sick.Why?

Because those in the highest levels of this government, the ministers, their closest assistants and the premier herself, seem to have lost all perspective of how their actions have a trickle down effect that impacts many lives. These are not numbers, or stats…these are all people we are talking about here.

Rod MacIsaac committed suicide because he was fired and said to be under RCMP investigation. Only… he wasn’t. And his family can’t get him back. Apologies ring hollow. Lies and more lies. What page is that in the government manual?

Paige is gone. But the government response to the scathing report on her death- one of many in ministry care, or recently released from ministry care- was released on October 19th, the day Canadians voted in the most contentious election most of us will remember.  No disrespect or attempt to squeeze that out under cover there. No, not in the most open and transparent government in Canada!

And yet…. there are more. And no amount of tears will get those loved ones back.

Tonight, I do still feel angry. But more so,I feel disappointed. Clark campaigned on bringing people back into government,on accountability and transparency. Yet… where did all those promises get us? Amrik Virk, a former RCMP member, fumbling through question period today when confronted with the opposition that thankfully chose to oppose.

The families of all of these victims- some of whom may still be here with us had government taken its job seriously and ensured due process was happening – have gone through enough. There is no closure. There will be no healing for many.  But due process is not something this government allows to happen. Accountability is just a word that looks good in a promise, and even the most partisan Liberal supporter in BC needs to ask why that is.

When people are dying because of government action… or inaction, it isn’t an issue of left or right… it is an issue of doing the right thing. And if doing the right thing means admitting that you screwed up, you admit that you screwed up and take your consequences. 
As a person of integrity, you do it…willingly. You do not pass the buck. You do not let a staffer take the fall. You do the right thing and take responsibility as a leader and let it rest on your shoulders. 

But under the ‘open’ Clark government? Not so much.

Not so much accountability. Not so much effort to change anything. Photo-ops and happy smiles all while declaring innocence of knowledge of any of it. Which is really hard to believe considering staffers wouldn’t be doing any of this if they didn’t think it was perfectly acceptable.
Not even under Gordon Campbell did I see anything like this. It’s a culture of deceit and deflection that makes the West Wing reference look like pre-school, and House of Cards  the playbook. There is a demonstrated lack of respect for the law, but more so, the spirit of the law.

And you were worried about Stephen Harper in BC??



Integrity BC is a must follow on facebook https://www.facebook.com/IntegrityBritishColumbia   and twitter https://twitter.com/INTEGRITYBC .

They’ve been sharing some more examples of how ministers, ministerial staff and other have been circumventing FOI and document handling laws, and here is just one of a few posted:


It’s also worth a trip back down memory lane to when government removed the penalties associated with document handling… and I was questioning why a bigger fuss wasn’t made over it when it immediately came to the attention of the opposition.

This matters right now. Greatly. And it didn’t get a lot of press when it happened.

Read this first:  http://lailayuile.com/2015/05/29/the-more-that-government-becomes-secret-the-less-it-becomes-free-james-russell-wiggins/

Then this: http://lailayuile.com/2015/05/31/if-you-kept-the-small-rules-you-could-break-the-big-ones-%E2%80%95-george-orwell/

And tell me there wasn’t a bigger agenda here than making it easier to destroy old,unnecessary documents.

This was about protecting those who do the dirty work. And that is all it was about.

Orange Crush served up in Alberta by Notley win,but can the BC NDP ride the wave to leadership in 2017?

orangecrushThere were two things on my TV agenda last night : the season première of Deadliest Catch, and the Alberta election. Flipping back and forth on commercial breaks, once the news that an NDP majority was being called by media, that was it. I never did  flip back to see the ending of Deadliest Catch but I did see the crashing of an orange wave of NDP on landlocked Alberta shores…

Congratulations are in order to Premier Notley and her newly elected MLA’s. Well done in the race and I’m hoping outgoing premier Jim Prentice ( endorsed by none other than Premier Clark I might add) can do the math on the number of seats the NDP now hold. His resignation as leader was a given- it generally is- but that he resigned from his seat as well, told the voters all they needed to know about what was important to him – power, not people.

The NDP have made history and are now presented with an equally historical opportunity to show what the NDP can do in the province, and Canada is watching. That such a conservative province voted left has left many still stunned in silence this morning,while others are already declaring that in six months voters will be regretting their choice.

Ironically, those are the same people who are quick to remind everyone  the voter is never wrong when a conservative government wins of course! Now that the table has turned, stories of doom and gloom from corporate Alberta, wide-eyed commentaries and admonitions of how business is going to pick up and leave are rife in media coverage.

For the average Albertan though, life will carry on as before, perhaps with a bit of trepidation of this big change and what it means. But I do believe Notley will rise to the occasion and show Alberta her best. Many in her caucus are wet behind the ears and a steep learning curve is ahead for sure, but there is something to be said for fresh ideas and a different perspective.

Regardless of which side you stand on,the voters are never wrong and nearly 60% of eligible voters turned out to cast a ballot and send a clear statement to long time politicians in the province. I wish them well.

Already many are predicting this bodes well for the BC NDP in the 2017 election, but I’m not so quick to say that a win in Alberta translates into a win in BC. Quite frankly, it’s a bit like comparing apples and oranges. There is more than just mountains that separates BC from Alberta.

Alberta has been under the Progressive Conservatives for 44 years. People my age don’t even have firsthand knowledge of any other party being in control. The NDP brand in the province doesn’t have any recent history to use against them with a huge number of voters and that works in their favour.

In direct contrast, here in BC the Liberals have been in power for just over a decade,and have used the well-crafted narrative of “You don’t want to go back to the horrible nineties do you?” to their benefit in multiple elections. Why? It works.

It doesn’t matter if the facts don’t support it, the narrative of the BC NDP being anti-business, anti-resource, pro-spending has been so consistently repeated by Liberals over the years in short sharp sound bites that it has become ingrained as good as truth.  Premier Clark still uses this line in speeches, even in recent months, because it still works.

NotleyAdding fuel to her fire is that many NDP from the nineties are still around, which doesn’t work to their benefit. It’s that recent history of the BCNDP that works against them in campaigns whereas the NDP really is something new to many Albertans -their lack of recent history works tremendously in their favour.

Looking to the leaders, Notley is a strong,fiery woman whose intelligence and quick wit is coupled with the wisdom of knowing when not to take the bait and when to fire back. She is vibrant, glowing and clearly appeals to a broad spectrum of voters.

horganIn contrast, while Horgan is also a strong, intelligent leader who enjoys the public, his temperament has been described often as brusque, and it doesn’t always work in his favour. He’s quick to rise to the bait and dish it back, and while he’s done a great job in the legislature dealing with the premier’s show-boating, his appeal in general to voters across a broad spectrum remains to be seen.

And while many Albertans are very pro-resource, British Columbia has a growing Green following of those who are either anti-resource or very strongly in favour of moving away from resource development. This bodes ill for the NDP who are caught between a rock and a hard place on issues of Kinder Morgan and LNG development with many voters.

Many NDP campaigners from BC worked to help the NDP win in Alberta,and certainly there should be lessons to be found from doing so.

Rightfully so, it’s time for NDP members everywhere to celebrate. But after basking in the glow of the orange dawn of NDP success next door, the BC NDP need to look hard at the challenges ahead. Despite having a ton of ammunition – John Horgan’s twitter account is worth the follow the last few day -they’ve repeatedly failed to weave a narrative to convince voters to vote orange in every election. And while they’ve found some fiery, brilliant MLAs in Lana Popham, Selina Robinson and David Eby , they would do well to recruit more.

Notley showed us all that anything is possible when an NDP government can take a sweeping majority in conservative country.

If the BC NDP want to ever be more than the perpetual official opposition, they need to come up with a winning combination of their own to serve up another orange crush like Notley did, rather than expecting to ride this one home.

** On a side note, Premier Clark might want to give up on making bets, since she recently predicted the Canucks would take the first round and Prentice would win

The Canucks lost, Prentice walked and I’m guessing she’s out a bit more craft beer. How do you think that bodes for her betting on LNG saving the provinces economy?

This weeks Duel for 24Hrs Vancouver: Bill 20 too intrusive.

This week, Brent and I take on one particular change to the Election Amendment act that all political parties in BC support:

Should a list of all people who voted in B.C. elections be provided to political parties?

When I read about the proposed amendments to the Election Act in a Facebook post by pro-democracy government watchdog IntegrityBC, I was stunned. Why? Because in the famous Apollo 13 message: “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”

This famous line sums up the state of politics in British Columbia precisely. When it comes to voting in provincial elections, we’ve had a big problem for decades.

On average, only around half of registered voters actually do so, and looking back at statistics, it’s a sorry tale of declining turnouts that speaks to voter apathy and growing cynicism with politics in general. Somehow political parties in B.C. now think that being provided with a list of who actually voted in the last election is going to help them engage voters and get the vote out – I strongly suspect it will have the opposite effect.

That voters were left out of this process tells me how out of touch political parties really are in addressing this voter apathy. Party members have defended this amendment to me in conversations by saying party scrutineers already keep track of who voted at the polls – a fact many readers I’ve spoken with were unaware of.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

While how you voted would still be protected, the list of people who actually turned up at the polls would be available to any registered political party in the province. As IntegrityBC pointed out recently, there are 23 registered parties here and it only takes two people to form one. Anyone can see the potential hotbed of issues that could arise from having access to a list of who voted – or didn’t.

That’s why I’m watching closely to see how provincial MLAs react to privacy commissioner Elizabeth Denham’s letter to Attorney General and Justice Minster Suzanne Anton. The Ministry of Justice has already issued a statement saying it doesn’t intend to withdraw the amendment, leaving any opposition to this up to individual MLAs. And while Anton has stated she is open to the chief electoral officer potentially drafting regulations on the use of this info, it’s my view the amendment allowing this list to be released should be dropped completely.

If political parties really wanted to address voter apathy and cynicism, putting the interests of the people before their own would be a good place to start.

Vote and read the comments HERE: http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/04/19/the-duel-bill-20-too-intrusive

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Mega-city unsuitable for region.

This week’s topic: Should the Lower Mainland become a mega-city like Toronto with one election for the entire region?

Brent is right on the money when he states: “What an election!” For politicos, there’s no bigger rush than election night – watching the polls come in to see what direction voters will take their cities. This year’s civic elections did not disappoint. They were riveting.

The big winner in this year’s civic elections is democracy, as many cities saw significantly higher voter turnouts. Regardless of the outcomes, increasing voter turnout is a positive sign that many voters are perhaps beginning to understand the power of their vote at the municipal level.

While it’s accurate to state that many issues facing our civic leaders are regional in nature, it’s simplistic to think that amalgamation is the cure for what ails us. Transportation issues in Vancouver such as transit are in no way comparable to cities like Surrey or Langley – it’s apples and oranges. You really don’t need a car in Vancouver, whereas in Surrey it’s a costly necessity for most. The same goes for the environment or development – while both are top of the list in both Vancouver and Surrey, it’s for different reasons.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

Supporters of amalgamation always resort to using cost-savings and more efficient service delivery as the biggest reasons for doing so. One city hall instead of five or six, fewer mayors, less waste, centralized administration, blah, blah, blah.

Sounds great until you actually take the time to see how it’s worked out for the other regions or cities that have done so in Canada. It hasn’t always been a success and, at times, it has been considered a failure…


READ the rest of this weeks column in response to Brent’s argument, comment and vote, HERE: http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/11/16/mega-city-unsuitable-for-region

“Elections determine who is in power, but they do not determine how power is used.” ― Paul Collier

It’s been the worst luck – or the best depending on your perspective – that the lingering  night cough and laryngitis from the cold I had in the end of October, has kept me from actively blogging as much as I would like to about the election this year. Depending on what day you catch me, I might sound like anything from a squeaky mouse to an 80 year old smoker, or reduced to a complete whisper. It’s tiring, and my phone has been a God-send while resting, but is not conducive to writing full posts here on the blog.

However, the ongoing election antics in this years municipal election rival anything I’ve seen,anywhere, in past years. In a city that has an ongoing record of low voter turnout, it’s incredibly problematic because the last thing we need is to disengage already cynical and suspicious voters with stunts that detract from serious issues.

A tent was set up outside a polling station, and food and drinks were handed out,within the designated guidelines prohibited by Elections BC. In speaking with several voters who had gone to vote, it is clear that RCMP ultimately had to attend with officials to shut the tent down.

Several voters and opposing candidates have made unproven allegations that this tent was set up either by supporters of the Safe Surrey coalition or the coalition themselves – that team has as of the time of this post, remained silent on those allegations made. Several photos have been posted of RCMP attending the tent on social media sites by both opposing slate Surrey First and a candidate running with One Surrey.

The candidates guide issued by Elections BC makes it very clear on page 24, that vote-buying/influencing and campaigning near a voting place are offences and carry stiff penalties of both fines and or jail time. Ultimately I believe that regardless of what occurred, complete denials of knowledge of this tent and a distancing from any supporters who might have done this, is what we are going to hear. Or they simply might say nothing at all and ignore the entire issue.

Either way, it’s unethical and shows a complete lack of respect of the rules governing the election process when supporters of any candidates, brazenly flaunt them.

That wasn’t the only foul-up yesterday, as another candidate reported that the voting machines stopped working at one voting location yesterday:


So we’ve had the incorrectly printed ballots voting snafu, and now voting machine issues. This occurred in the last election as well on the evening of voting day and I’m concerned that it has come up again this election in an advance vote. Regardless if the votes collected are held in accordance of the law, questions as to why these voting machines seem to have ongoing issues need to be asked. Voters deserve to have the full assurance that all due process is being followed and that votes are being held securely at all times if the machines stop working.

Personally, if the machine stopped working and I was asked to put my ballot elsewhere, I would refuse and hold onto to it until officials determined what the issue was and how it was going to be handled.

Advance voter turnout has been strong this year, much like it was in the last election and residents are eagerly predicting that this means a record turnout overall in next weekends vote.

While I would love for this to be true, let me remind you of the 2011 election where advance voting shattered records…. and then we still ended up with a mere 70,253 votes being cast- a horrific turnout considering there were 279,051 registered voters. Lets not even discuss that our population is nearing or at the half million mark. Sadly, the civic BC info link with the 2011 voting turnout results has turned into an Error 404 link- if you have a copy, please send it along.  http://www.civicinfo.bc.ca/Library/Elections/BC_Voter_Turnout%20–%20Elections%20BC%20–2011.pdf

Long story short, every vote counts and engaging new voters matters.Consider the implication now that candidates elected will serve the public for 4 years, instead of three – that’s a long time.

Voter malaise is fed and nurtured by politicians,candidates and supporters who engage in dirty politics. Hearing promises that can’t be filled, seeing stunts like this and the behavior of some politicians during debates is more likely to turn voters off then turn them on.

And for some reason, I can’t help think that’s exactly what some politicians would prefer.

Silence is the ultimate weapon of power. -Charles de Gaulle

Just this last summer, I discovered one of the few remaining gems in B.C., one I happily admit I will only share the location of with my trusted friends.

2013-09-01 022What more could you possibly want from this province? Stunning hills and mountains, unadulterated natural,see- yourself- in- the- mirror- pristine lakes filled with whatever nature intended to be there…and all to yourself.

No clearcuts visible ( a rarity in the province of BC, as those who travel here know!) No invasive species dumped in the lake and surrounding areas from wannabe pet owners tired of turtles/koi/carp/bunnies and whatever else has been deemed a socially acceptable pet fad.

In short, a bit of heaven here on earth, or at least what I would want heaven to look like,coming from a woman who was born and raised in the northern interior.

Sad thing is, Christy do-anything-to-make- even- a- tiny-buck-for-this-debt-ridden-province- Clark, is putting this and many more locations like this at risk to not only balance the budget for 2014, but actually make it look like there is hope for the years beyond that.

And…the BC NDP sure as hell are not doing anything to change that.

More on that tomorrow.

For now, appreciate what we have… while we actually have it.

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Ousting homeless without a plan is unacceptable.

There were no winners in last week’s duel, and as I suspected, Syria has already faded from discussion for many people in favour of whatever outrage has their attention this week. For the people of Syria, there is no win.

This week, Brent and I take a look at the how the city of Abbotsford is dealing with their homeless population. Quite frankly, they aren’t.

Is the City of Abbotsford right to evict residents of a homeless camp?

Last week, Stats Canada and the Broadbent Institute both released surveys that indicated British Columbia leads the country in social well-being.

Not surprising when you think about it. After all, this is beautiful B.C. It’s the land of plenty, where the ocean meets mountains and opportunity can be found around every corner.

But in a province that leads the country in social well-being, why is homelessness still such a big issue for so many communities? Case in point is the City of Abbotsford. This Fraser Valley community found itself the target of several media reports earlier this summer for dumping chicken manure on a site where homeless people were camping.

Read Brent Stafford’s column

While the city manager took responsibility for the issue, several media reports have since revealed that many city departments were involved in one of the most disgusting methods of dealing with homelessness I’ve ever encountered.

Last week, city staff “evicted” homeless squatters off another site in Abbotsford. So where did these people who have no homes go? Much to the chagrin of city officials, they went back to the location where the city had dumped chicken manure earlier this summer…

READ the rest of my column, along with Brents and  then vote for who you think should win this week’s debate under his column. http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2013/09/15/ousting-the-homeless-without-a-plan-is-unacceptable


“Whipped: the secret world of party discipline.” A documentary about the secret world of party discipline, which forces MLAs to vote against their constituents and even their own conscience.


Hold onto your hats everyone, Election 2013 just took a twist.

Sean Holman, formerly of Public Eye Online, is about to première his stunning new documentary, and in doing so may change the way British Columbians view party politics – and it’s about time.

In my opinion this documentary is long past due, and I am exceptionally happy to share this with you, and hope that you may attend one of the screenings – admission by donation.

From their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/partydiscipline

“On May 14th, British Columbians will go to the polls and choose who they want to represent them in the legislature. But, for the next four years, most of those MLAs will only represent the wishes of their party leaders.

A new video documentary by Webster Award-winning investigative journalist Sean Holman reveals why, exposing the secretive system of party discipline that stops MLAs from voting their conscience or for their constituents”

Now,many of you already know that is how it really works for most political parties… but I’m willing to wager that even more of you did not. Is your MLA really representing you and your community… or another agenda all together?

Now, I am a little curious as to how many of you think your MLA should have the right to vote freely, rather than as the party directs, so watch this trailer, and then if you like, vote at the poll below it. I spoke with Sean last night, and he believed so strongly that this documentary, this story, needed to be told, that he financed the entire project himself at great personal expense. He’s set up a donation page to help offset the costs of the project and if you think you would like to be a part of it, check out this page http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/whipped

Want to attend a screening? Check out this page for Dates and Times this documentary will be shown in Vancouver and Victoria, admission by donation!


“In a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy.” – Matt Taibbi

Leave it to Matt Taibbi to peg it bang on : Organized greed always, always,defeats disorganized democracy. So get on it people! Organize yourselves!

For that reason I am about to embark on an intensive work weekend during which I’ll be working on a number of items that you’ve been looking forward to!

As well, my regular column in 24Hrs Vancouver will be back on Monday following our break this week due to the Easter holiday… and I think you’ll be glad to hear we have some political duels on the horizon during the weeks leading up to the election, where we’ll be taking a look at some of the top issues voters are concerned about in British Columbia.

Until then, scroll down and read some of the recent posts, or look through the site and the Best Of page to find other still relevant offerings. From fracking to corruption,pipelines to policy, there isn’t much I haven’t written about!! I will pop in to answer comments and emails,but for the most part, the nose will be to the grindstone…

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you on Monday!

Deep Rogue Ram presents “Christy Clark’s 99 problems ” – a rap remix

The talented folks at Deep Rogue Ram have done it again :

“BC Premier Christy Clark faces off against her critics, her constituents and her nemesis Alison Redford on a raucous cross-province road trip. If you’re sitting at the legislature, we feel bad for you, son. Christy’s got 99 problems – but a session ain’t one.”

Starring Caitlin Dodd with guest appearance by Allison Dawn Johnson
Video by: Kai Nagata, Heather Libby, Caitlin Dodd & Emile Scott
Track by Rick Rubin

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Deep-Rogue-Ram/270636419712713
Twitter: http://twitter.com/deeprogueram
Tumblr: http://deeprogueram.tumblr.com